Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Defense Always Wins Games

How far do you think the Pittsburgh Steelers will go in the playoffs?

Take a look at how far they’ve come.

Just like in their Super Bowl-winning season of 2005, the Steelers have had a habit of exceeding expectations.

Before the season, all the pundits were predicting grim things for them. The schedule was too tough, Ben Roethlisberger has lost a step, and the offensive line stinks. A common prediction around the office was 6-10.

As often happens, the Steelers proved the naysayers wrong.

It’s a bit hard to see how they achieved the first-round bye. Following the Steelers this season has required a great deal of patience. They have won some of their games in unbelievable fashion, pulling games out at the last minutes and leaving fans more relieved than celebratory.

The offensive line has been nonexistent at times, Ben’s season has had more sacks than Giant Eagle, and the punters could have been picked at random from the Pittsburgh phone book. Even fans could be forgiven for not being able to picture these guys wearing Super Bowl rings.

So could they go all the way?

You bet.

When I was a reporter, I covered a high school football team called the Greyhounds. They were nicknamed the “Dawgs,” which the coach said was an acronym for “Defense Always Wins Games.”

So it is with the Steelers. The defense, led by linebacker James Harrison, has been compared to the great “Steel Curtain” of the 1970s. It’s noteworthy that Harrison was the only defensive player to receive MVP votes this year. He was named NFL Defensive Player of the Year. Add to this Troy Polamalu, Lamarr Woodley, Casey Hampton, Aaron Smith, and the rest, and, barring injuries, there isn’t a weak spot on this unit.

Is the defense enough? Maybe. I am reminded of the 2000 Baltimore Ravens, a team that won the Super Bowl primarily on the strength of an incredible defense. Remember that the starting QB on that squad was Trent Dilfer. Starr…Namath…Staubach…Bradshaw…Montana…and Dilfer. As they sang on "Sesame Street," one of these things is not like the others.

As we look forward to Saturday’s divisional playoff game, remember what Coach Brian Cross knew back at Grove City High School—Defense Always Wins Games.

Steelers 23, Chargers 10.

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